When confronted with statistics about the burden that EU regulation places on UK businesses and voluntary bodies (at the last count it was over £38 billion since 1998) a classic Commission response is to blame it on national parliaments and civil servants "gold-plating" EU laws. (Gold plating in this context is when national politicians or bureaucrats add to EU regulations to make them even more cumbersome)
So I was surprised when at a seminar hosted by the Industry and Parliament Trust both David Arculus (former head of the Better Regulation Task Force) and Rick Haythornthwaite (Head, Better Regulation Unit) both agreed that problem of gold-plating was actually a bit of a
white elephant red herring.
Rick Haythornthwaite said that he had looked into the issue but found "limited evidence that there had been significant burdens imposed by gold-plating". Similarly David Arculus said, "we could not find much evidence of UK parliament deliberately gold-plating EU law."
Haythornthwaite was also sceptical about the latest EU deregulatory fad - to attempt to cut "administrative burdens"(the amount of forms that regulations require businesses to fill in). The EU Commission recently announced that it intends to cut these burdens by 25%, but as Haythornthwaite implied, this is just a minor issue: "The big price is the policy cost".
Other interesting snippets: they blamed part of the problem on the plethora of regulators in the UK (the average hospital has to comply with rules from 42 different regulators). Blair and Brown are said to both privately be keen on establishing a one-in-one-out rule for business regulation. And both Arculus and Haythornthwaite called for a significant strengthening of parliamentary select committees - particularly the European Scrutiny Committee (as we have also argued).